Before their intense rivalry began, Max Verstappen once spoke out against a penalty Lewis Hamilton received at the 2020 Russian GP.
2020 was a year when Mercedes was on top of the world. The Silver Arrows and Hamilton were cruising towards yet another World Title ahead of the Russian GP. His teammate Bottas was second in the standings followed by Verstappen in P3.
Regardless of the result in Sochi, Hamilton’s seventh World Title seemed inevitable that season. However the Russian GP didn’t quite go the Brit’s way. His weekend went off to a good start after he qualified on pole for the race. Sunday on the other hand was a different story.
Relief for Lewis Hamilton…
— Sky Sports F1 (@SkySportsF1) September 27, 2020
Before the cars made their way to the grid, Hamilton made a practice start outside of the designated area. This resulted in two five-second penalties for the Mercedes. He served that during his first pit-stop, which effectively ruined his race. To add to his woes, the FIA also added two penalty points to his super license.
Verstappen, who came second in the race stood up for Hamilton suggesting that adding penalty points was excessive in the the first place.
Two points for what Hamilton did was too harsh, said Max Verstappen
Verstappen and Hamilton shared one of the fiercest Title battles in F1 history in 2021. The two engaged in several on track duels and off track verbal battles throughout the season, which ended in the Dutchman’s favor.
In 2020 however, Verstappen was nowhere near challenging for the Title, so he kept an open mind while talking about the penalty points his rival received. During the post race interview, the 24-year old stood up for Hamilton.
“It’s a bit harsh,” he said. “I mean if you cause a crash, it’s different. I think the penalty Lewis got was already painful enough. I don’t know how many points he got, two points?”
“It’s harsh that he’s up to ten points without actually (doing anything). I mean it wasn’t correct where he stopped, but penalty points for that? I’m not sure.”
The penalty points Hamilton got took his total to 10 that year, just two short of a race ban. However, they were soon rescinded after an appeal made by Mercedes proved to be successful. Hamilton ended up winning the Championship that year at the Turkish Grand Prix, with three races to spare.